Cell-Free Phospholipid Biosynthesis by Gene-Encoded Enzymes Reconstituted in Liposomes

Andrew Scott, Marek Noga, P. de Graaf, Ilja Westerlaken, Esengul Yildirim, Christophe Danelon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

74 Citations (Scopus)
70 Downloads (Pure)


The goal of bottom-up synthetic biology culminates in the assembly of an entire cell from separate biological building blocks. One major challenge resides in the in vitro production and implementation of complex genetic and metabolic pathways that can support essential cellular functions. Here, we show that phospholipid biosynthesis, a multiple-step process involved in cell membrane homeostasis, can be reconstituted starting from the genes encoding for all necessary proteins. A total of eight E. coli enzymes for acyl transfer and headgroup modifications were produced in a cell-free gene expression system and were co-translationally reconstituted in liposomes. Acyl-coenzyme A and glycerol-3-phosphate were used as canonical precursors to generate a variety of important bacterial lipids. Moreover, this study demonstrates that two-step acyl transfer can occur from enzymes synthesized inside vesicles. Besides clear implications for growth and potentially division of a synthetic cell, we postulate that gene-based lipid biosynthesis can become instrumental for ex vivo and protein purification-free production of natural and non-natural lipids.
Original languageEnglish
Article number e0163058
Number of pages23
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Lipids
  • Liposomes
  • Vesicles
  • Enzymes
  • Gene expression
  • Liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry
  • Phospholipids
  • Biosynthesis
  • OA-Fund TU Delft


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